Title of project

Life in Extraordinary times: Muslim women in Minnesota

Faculty Advisor

Hui Wilcox

Department

Sociology

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Life in Extraordinary times: Muslim women in Minnesota

Minnesota has a large Muslim population due to Somali-Muslim immigrant settlement. The Somali community has grown tremendously over the last twenty years due to family-oriented chain migration, making Minnesota one of the states with the highest Muslim population. However, little research has been done about Muslim women and their experience especially in Minnesota. Acknowledging this, we decided to focus on Muslim women and their experiences especially in light of the hostile climate for Muslims in America after 9/11. A review of existing literature on Muslim women’s experiences in America has shown that Muslims are otherized and not accepted into the American mainstream culture even if they identified as Americans. We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews and also looked at published first-person narratives of Muslim women living in America. The results showed that Muslim women are otherized by their American counterparts; they have to redefine what it means to be Muslim-American or American Muslim. One particular argument we make is that there is a major discrepancy between how Muslim women tell their own stories and how the media and the academic literature portray and analyze their lives. Whereas Muslim women emphasize their dual identity as both Muslim and American, and talk about their experiences that might or might not directly associate with “being Muslim”, the mainstream discourse tends to zero in on the single issue of the veil. We question this single-minded focus, and call for an examination of the Western gaze itself, reinforced by both the popular and the academic discourses.